Indian Air Force (IAF) is likely to take a call on the retirement of the Soviet-era supplied IL-76 Strategic Transport Aircraft after attempts to carry out midlife upgrade and overhaul had to be abandoned due to ongoing sanctions imposed on Russia due to the Ukraine war. IAF operates 17 Il-76MDs that were acquired between 1985-89 and by the turn of this decade, the first three aircraft will be over 45 years old that are still on the older Soloviev D-30KP-1 turbofan engines.

IAF had plans to upgrade the Il-76MD fleet with Aviadvigatel PS-90A turbofan engines that are equipped on the 6 Il-78MKI Aerial Refuellers and 3 A-50EI Phalcon airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft in the IAF fleet but that might not happen now as has been told plans are being made to start retiring older batch from 2030 onwards.

IL-76 fleet has been plagued by poor serviceability and has been operating below the required average serviceability rate set by the air force for its transport aircraft fleet even Russians are moving to the newer IL-76MD-90A standards powered by the powerful and economical PS-90A-76 engines with improved fuel efficiency systems.

Not just the engines but even the avionics and navigation systems of the IL-76 fleet are outdated now and it won’t make economic sense to upgrade them at a later stage looking at their advanced age and retirement might be the only option left.

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